Review: Kaytranada shines through the big features on Bubba

The Montreal producer's rising stature has gotten him bigger collaborators, including Tinashe and Pharrell, but his signature sound is always there


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Eight years after his first SoundCloud upload and four years after his Polaris Prize-winning debut LP 99.9%, Kaytranada is back with an album that expounds on his signature grooves. SoundCloud rap is often used as a derogatory term for mumbly, monotonous rappers and DIY laptop beat-makers, but with Bubba the Montreal DJ and self-taught producer born Kevin Celestin proves what a SoundCloud producer can become.

The album starts with the flowing percussion of Do It, a track that sounds like listening to a DJ set from under the surface of a pool. A 60s-style soul breakdown effortlessly flows into 2 The Music – one of many masterfully smooth transitions. It might have something to do with his background on the decks, but Kaytranada has a knack for making an album flow. 

Kaytranada also has a perfect ear for collaborations, and Bubba features both familiar and fresh voices. Taste is his second collaboration with R&B duo VanJess this year after the loosie Dysfunctional. He also reunites with the rapper Goldlink, whose collaboration with Kaytranada spans both their projects. Upstart Top Dawg Entertainment artist SiR tells the story of the perfect night out on Go DJ with velvety smooth vocals and club-friendly production that recalls Craig David at his peak (another artist in Kaytranada’s orbit). 

Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins sings on Gray Area, an early highlight for the new electronic energy it brings to throwback R&B – a genre that has come under fire for its stagnating self-references. Toronto singer Charlotte Day Wilson’s breathy soul effortlessly blends with Kaytranada’s bouncy production on What You Need. Kaytranada first broke out with rogue SoundCloud remixes of artists like Janet Jackson, but his stature is now big enough for him to directly collaborate with established heavyweights like Tinashe and Estelle.

The album closes with his biggest feature yet in Midsection, a party anthem anchored by the breezy falsetto of Pharrell. But despite the star power, it’s far from the album’s highlight. It’s a soulful, summer-ready pool party anthem, but it feels lighter than some of the album’s more memorable collaborations. 

The most meaningful feature on Bubba is actually Teedra Moses. Culture is their second link-up. Their first, Kaytranada’s bubbly Be Your Girl remix, breathed new life into Moses’s 15-year-old single and introduced the R&B songstress to a new generation of fans (it currently has more than 10 million streams on SoundCloud). Culture is anchored by an infectious snare loop and Moses’s dreamy vocals, layered into ethereal echoes. 

Though it’s feature-heavy (as was 99.9%), the guest artists complement his production without overpowering or upstaging it. Song after song reflects Kaytranada’s signature fusion of entrancing sounds and signature soulful bounce. You can always tell a Kaytranada song, no matter who is singing on it. 

Top track: Go DJ feat. SiR

@sumikoaw

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